This is still our Sydney

The author of this piece is a dear friend. ‘This is still our Sydney’ is her personal account of December 15 & 16, 2014. We met up last weekend never imagining the terrible events to come. Among the many grabs and soundbites since the shock of the Sydney siege, many people rush to write about their feelings about the day. It’s allowed of course but the results are often mawkish. This piece isn’t. It is simply one person’s powerful and unbroken story of Sydney this week. I recommend it.


Flowers in Martin Place at 9.30am on Tuesday. Flowers in Martin Place at 9.30am on Tuesday.

It’s Monday morning and I’m running late. Walking late. It’s twenty minutes to ten when I turn left from Phillip St into Martin Place.

I don’t look at the Lindt cafe as I pass. My eyes are focused on the Channel Seven news ticker. I can’t remember now what it says but I’m sure Michael Clarke’s hamstring features somewhere.

I love Martin Place, its wide indulgent promenade and its buildings that speak of other times. I always take a moment to breathe it in.

Man Haron Monis is only minutes away. This morbid chapter is already unfolding. By the time I settle at my desk, he has entered the Lindt cafe. The lives of seventeen people going about the mundane business of ordering and serving coffee are now forever changed.

Before long, a large TV screen in our office is showing static…

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Guest post : Finch memoir prize

This is a post by a dear friend and writing friend Christina Houen. I have come to know Christina’s story through our ‘writing’ meetings where we provide support and feedback on current projects. I hope in time many of you will read her story.

Writing Lives

In 2011 I was short-listed for the Finch memoir prize 2012, for my memoir of childhood. I have since revised that memoir, which is still unpublished. It is now called This Place You Know. I have included my mother’s voice in it. In the revision, I’ve been encouraged and supported by my dear friend  and writing buddy, Marian Edmunds. I decided not to re-enter this for the Finch this year, as they have what I consider a rather outdated requirement that the memoir be written as ‘told by its subject in his or her own voice’. Since I have woven my mother’s voice in with mine, this may rule me out.

So I have entered my revised memoir of my early adult life and first marriage and its sequel, the abduction of my children by their father. This was a traumatic time which split my life in two…

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Jeanette Winterson: making journeys out of stories and stories out of journeys


Jeanette Winterson Jeanette Winterson

“It’s a beautiful day, you could be swimming but you’re here. Thank you,” said British writer, broadcaster and activist, Jeanette Winterson as she started her keynote address at Byron Bay Writers’ Festival 2014.

And before long we were immersed, in Winterson’s stories of storytelling.

“When we meet, we meet on the steps of a story,” and Winterson, whose first novel, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit was published in 1991, went on to list the ways stories start. “Have you heard the one about?”

And she reminds us that stories were around long before books. Stories are not only for readers, “We meet on the street and the smallest exchange becomes a narrative.”

“Humans didn’t create language to say, “Honey can you pass me the spear?”

“If you think about language beginning in the mouth rather than before it hits the page, because speech is far older than…

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Morning Souls by MJ Edmunds

Morning soul at Pt Danger

The first peace … came in first moments of knowing the danger had passed. There would be other dangers but they were for another day. All clear.
For a while it had been scary. Could she leave enough for them if she had to go?
She wanted to see them through. Any mother would.
For a while she had been the angel of her suburb, a wonder, a miracle for coping so well, an inspiration, for taking it in her stride, for taking so much on at such a time.
Suddenly, she did not sweat the small stuff. How little they knew, and she made sure to keep it that way. But one day, on an institutional couch in a room with a square window filled by a swirl of leaves and branches, a word or two delivered with measured compassion tugged her and all that had been so neatly buttoned up poured out. A few minutes later she applied lipstick and stepped back into her bravado. She liked this feeling, that she might conquer anything, and of feeling that the normal irritations could not touch her, would wash over her, and of the many plans she had for ‘after this time’. She would achieve so much, and give so much, and never be ordinary again. But she was…

Morning Souls by MJ Edmunds
Morning Souls by MJ Edmunds

This is written on Mothers Day in some parts of the world. Happy Mothers Day to all and particularly those without their mothers today.
It was prompted by writing a prompt, “The First Peace…” from Writing From The Soul sent by Jane Brunette today. It is always a welcome addition the the in-box. I use prompts if my mind has been busy and my writer soul has been out of action.

MJ Edmunds

The destination of a successful man

Fishbone cloud, Rainbow Bay
Fishbone cloud, Rainbow Bay
MJ Edmunds

An early days excerpt from a novel  in progress.

The boys were restless all through class. Maybe it was the rocket launch they’d planned down in Tommy Jones’s back paddock. Maybe it was a combination of raging hormones and the moon being in Jupiter.
Adam felt just like them. He had to keep dragging his mind back to the classroom, away from the thought of seeing Shelly tonight. There were only a couple of hours to go before he’d be driving down to the airport. Shelly’s secondment in Sydney had ended up being much longer than they thought, and for three months Sydney had been replaced by Singapore. But they’d got through. There were on the home run now. We’re going to make it.
There was a lot of fidgeting going on at the desk in the back corner. Perhaps it was time to rearrange the class seating plan. “Dylan, you need to think about this revision I’ve set out. If you can work your way through this it will give most of what you need for the examination.”
“Come on Mr Hammo, it’ll be cool.”
“So Mr Hamilton, are you saying that the answers to the exams are all in this latest revision?” said Melissa Broad with raven hair and chocolate brown eyes, framed with long lashes, and seemingly oblivious of her own burgeoning power to break hearts.
“If you can work your way through that you’ll make it through the exam Melissa,” said Adam.
“Gee thanks Brain-box Broad. That’s all right then sir. I’ll just brush up on that the night before,” said Dylan slamming his book down on the desk.
“I’m serious Dylan, you do need to prepare for the exam in advance.”
“C’mon Sir, you’re just trying to make it easy on yourself so you don’t have to teach us.”
“He’s got other things on his mind,” said Dylan. The boys down the back tittered.
“Mr Hammo’s going to the seaside. He’s going to see his shell-leee.
“He’s going to have sex on the sand. He’s going to have a …
“Stop that now, Dylan Miller. Get out of this classroom now and go and wait by the principal’s office.” Dylan stood up and clomped out to the classroom raising his hand to wave to classmates.
“Ooh,” called a voice from the back. Perhaps it was Craig Brennan or Ryan Sharp. Adam was past caring.
“Look how pink Hammo’s face is,” whispered Narelle Flick to Melissa so loudly almost everyone could hear.
Adam knew she was right. And that now his face was turning brilliant red.

“I am going to miss you lot in the holidays,” said Adam, “particularly your humour.”
“No, you won’t sir. You’ll have your lay…..deeeeee.”
“Craig Brennan, would you like to visit the principal too?”
“No Sir, I’ll skip it today.”
“Now over the vacation, if you want to increase your chances at the exams you should be reading…..
The bell rang. Sweet relief. Lunchtime. Almost through. Adam had arranged an early cut to miss the last lesson. He was to drive to the airport, a journey of two hours, and take the afternoon flight to Brisbane.
But first he had to deal with Dylan Miller. Adam thought he might have bunked off, and to be honest on this day if he had. Adam might have let it go, and saved a stiff reminder for his first day of term. But Dylan was waiting, leaning by the wall outside Bill Cosgrove’s office.
“OK Dylan, I am just going in to see when Mr Cosgrove will be free, so just wait here please?”
“Mr Hammo, I mean Sir, do you have to?” said Dylan.
“Dylan, if it was the first time you’d misbehaved but you know as well as I do that you’ve been out of order a lot.
“Please don’t sir. I don’t want there to be trouble at home.”
“Well you should have thought about that before. Just wait here Dylan.”
Dylan slumped into a chair in the waiting room.
“But sir my mother’s really sick. My gran’ll skin me alive if I get into trouble.”
“What about your parents?”
“Mum’s sick, really sick,” he said.
“I’m living with me Gran,” he said.
“And your Dad?”
“What’s your Gran like?”
“She’s alright I guess.”
“Don’t give her grief Dylan,” said Adam.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean don’t make life any harder for your Gran than it already is.”
Dylan pulled a face. This was Hammo was in new territory.
“All right I won’t sir.”
The voices coming out of Mr Cosgroves office were clearly in a heated discussion.
“Dylan, go to your next class then go home,” said Adam. “And I’ll see you after holidays. And think about how you are going to behave next term.”
“Ok sir. Thanks sir. Have a good time at the coast sir,” said Dylan making for the door in case Adam changed his mind. Dylan would return home to Acacia Street that afternoon where his mother would be sitting in her shorts and t-shirt on the verandah with a cigarette on the go.
“Don’t tell me it’s the bloody holidays,” she’d say. “Always on bloody holidays, you kids, why don’t you go and get a job?”

If Adam took a cab from the airport, he’d just have time to get to the jewellery store. He liked the sound of the destination as he said it to the cabby. The best jeweller in the city. It sounded like the destination of a successful man.

MJ Edmunds

Happy Valentines

The Luck of the Valentine

♥ ♥ ♥ Valentine Vignettes ♥ ♥ ♥

A Valentine’s Day  card came in the post in an unfamiliar hand.  He signed his full name on the card. Since school she had never thought about him …

♥ ♥ ♥
She sent him, who featured large in her reckonings, a Valentine’s  card with a candle attached, and the hope he might light it under him…

♥ ♥ ♥
He realised at once that he had posted his lovingly worded Valentine’s card complete with declarations,  and the many joys he  would bestow, under the wrong door. He tried to retrieve it with a wire coat hanger, undone, but pushed the envelope out of reach….
♥ ♥ ♥
In the grandest restaurant, highly reputed for its game,  he ordered bread and butter pudding then turned to her, took her hands in his and said marry me…
♥ ♥ ♥

Happy Valentines
Flowers awaiting instructions

Twice on Valentine’s Day, many years apart, the RL me has been in car accidents.

The first was in a purple Valiant with  bench seats, sitting in the front between two boys. We were all smiles on our way to a party, until we skidded off the road and  came to a crashing halt into a metal pillar. Turned out that pillar was holding up a water tank  but not for long… I was embarrassed about us tanking that tank.

The second was on the way home from the art gallery, a rare mother and son day, where we had sketched like Matisse and  had a  good lunch.  I awoke as we crashed into the central fence on  motorway. Then we bounced across three M1 lanes to the feeder lane before coming to a halt.

In both of those accidents, everyone involved was technically unscathed, yet we changed. Lucky Valentines!

This Valentine’s Day there was no crash, just everyday love. Which is the point.

MJ Edmunds

On an indigo night

By MJ Edmunds : I glimpsed the moonlit sky in the last hour of darkness. For this I give gratitude to the cat that found me at my early desk and brushed by my legs to say he had a night mission. As I slid the door open I spotted the moon just up there and liked how it glimmered on the roof of the house next door and onto the road. Barefoot, I crossed the deck and leaned on the railing to crane to take in  the  indigo sky. I drew in a deep breath at the pleasure of it. As light as it was, you (if lucky) could see stars still strewn across the sky, and what I call in all of my stories a dance hall sky. Some were dimmed by now. A car came up the hill, two white orbs showing the way although almost not needed. This driver was making an early start, a nurse heading for a shift, a lover stealing home before dawn, a traveller heading for the airport to go south for weekend, or a surfer racing to catch a wave at daybreak…
The Paradigm Shuffle~MJ Edmunds

Indigo night : MJ Edmunds
Indigo night : MJ Edmunds

David Ades, A Glorious Uncertainty

A friend met only once

David Ades was a friend met once only in a cafe  at an hour not as late as it felt. I’d been to the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival launch party, and with no dinner plans,  needed something warm to fill the spaces canapés had not reached.  I walked along Jonson St, Fletcher, Lawson in the cold seeking  a place and eventually spotted a warm glow at end of an open air arcade.

The café staff were starting  to clear up but a few people arrived, a woman in stark white Indian cotton ordering a takeaway, and a young man. We talked.

I didn’t know his name them but I had noticed David sitting at the next table in dark clothes that must have held stories of many nights and cities. I noticed his hair too, silvery white, back into a pony tale. He was focused on eating.

David heard the woman in white speak to us of healing and spoke to her, something about cancer. My ears pricked up, I have my story. Her food ready, she left. David resumed his meal.

The young man had asked if he could join me for dinner. He had written a children’s book about the environment and planned to scale the barriers of the writers’ festival to show it to someone. I am pitching my novel to a live audience and three publishers and I’m nervous, I told him.

David spoke to me right then and I turned to see his blue eyes. He said he’d heard me speak about pitching and unfurled the story of his Dad, Joe, who had been a pitchman in New York City that people came from all over to see. He always wore a three piece suit and Union Square was one of favourite places to pitch. In the evenings Joe would go home to his fourth wife on the Upper East Side and would have a steak at a fine restaurant, every night. By the time David told me this my lentils had arrived, glowing and golden in a white bowl.

Joe’s merchandise was always the same thing, said David, and he did this for decades. The item sold at $5. It was a potato peeler that you will never find in a store. Joe Ades was The Potato Peeler Guy and when he died the New York Times his obituary. David urged me to read about his father on his website. I will, I said.

Oh hey, I wrote a story in a New York literary travel anthology last year [City Pick New York], I said. 
I’d like to read that book, he said.
That can be arranged, I said.

We said goodbye and I felt gratitude that the uncertainty of this evening had led me to these people in that place. I awoke the next morning feeling buoyant, and carried the warmth of David’s story about his dad, Joe, the pitch man, into my own pitch that went so well that complete strangers approached me afterwards. My mood soared for a week or more.David Ades, A Glorious Uncertainty

When I had a chance to look up and saw those blue eyes gazing out, I found out he not only played saxophone, he was one of the world’s finest. He never said. Naturally.

He’d had an album, out that year, recorded in New York City, David Ades & friends, A Glorious Uncertainty, and when I saw the cover with the front section of a yellow cab I smiled. The book I hoped to get to him had the back section of a yellow cab on its cover.
Where I meet Franzen

Soon after I found out he had lung cancer and was undergoing treatments, and I realised I’d heard something of this as he spoke with the woman in white.

We exchanged some Facebook messages. I wanted to get the book to him. “We could swap the CD and the book,” he said. “Sounds good,” I said. He said he was playing at Bangalow with Galapagos Duck. “Do you remember them? Or we could always use the good old postal system.” I saw the message too late for the gig. We never made the swap. It didn’t matter. The best swap was made in that hour we spent and for that I am glad.
Farewell David Ades.

MJ Edmunds

Perfect Day

Perfect Day, Mountsfield cover version

Perfect Day has been on automatic replay in my head this past day since the news Lou Reed had passed away. The cover of this tune that stands out in my memory was played on a clear blue June Saturday in Mountsfield Park, London. People’s Day.  A jobbing muso of whiskered jaw in black uniform playing guitar under trees to weekend flower children, jigging toddlers, people yearning  something or someone never reached, remembering things that never quite were. Remembering flashes of fun. We sing along. Together. Weekenders on our own. 

Was it the 444,000th cover of Perfect Day ever made? 

A reggae beat rolls up the hill to warn it will be in charge from sunset.
I rarely carried a cameras in the 1990s.  It is clear in the big screen inside my head. I wish there was a kind of camera that could take the image in my mind and show it to you.  It would show you the plant stall on the left as you came in, the crumbling outbuildings, the craft stalls, and the cakes liquefying even in the shade, flowered icing smearing. It would show you young love. Problems all left alone.  It would show you the children in spangly costumes, it’s such fun.  It would show you  buggies laden with goodies and babies, smiling, sleeping and squirming. It would show you the cream of London apiarists, who for five minutes would make you think of keeping bees. It would show you the tiny stream train and driver, a portly Gulliver. It would show you the tables of ezy cleaning products, and dolls in crinolines with  toilet paper petticoats that will do another twirl at a boot fair soon.  It would show you old love. It would show you  chutneys and pickles with floral covers, and it would show you the donkeys and falcons. Just a perfect day feed animals in the zoo. 

Just a perfect day you made me forget myself.

One perfect day. Luckily, it’s not the only one.

MJ Edmunds

Italics are  from Perfect Day by Lou Reed.

Happy to write here

On being in the writer tribe

I have been attending the Australian Society of Authors‘ first ever National Writers’ Congress #asa2020 which has meant spending more time in the company of writers than usual. It’s been good to have that shorthand that goes with being among your tribe.

The event started with a literary speed dating event which meant standing in sometimes lengthy lines to spend five minutes with an  agent or publisher. It was a fruitful. My intention was to meet publishers and agents to see about sending them one work and to gauge their interest for another work in progress. Happily achieved plus I discussed a work I hadn’t planned to discuss.

I have brought 18 books to go in the book shop. I noticed the book stand is far from the coffee and rest rooms so I don’t think people had much time to look.  Hoping not to take all 18 books on the plane home. (Went home 4 books lighter.)

There were some stirring speeches. I enjoyed Anna Funder who was scathingly about all of those people who want us to ‘just write’  a 200 or 300 words  for no payment. Michael Fraser AM issued a call to arms on copyright, Susan Johnson @sjreaders whose books I had read years even before meeting in London at a mutual friend’s barbecue,  Antony Loewenstein (who says so many people want to write the same as others which is dull) and Angelo Loukakis with a gift for summing up. Tom Keneally’s video was jolly in his pink Fiji shirt with some magnificent swirly wallpaper behind him.

There was a dinner too. Not some office-Christmas-party-sort-of-debauched-and-shop-talk dinner butHappy to write heresomething that was fun. No business cards, no need to say what you were working on. Just some fun with the tribe. Good to catch up briefly with Anne Summers who was resplendent in  her Julia Gillard interview outfit.

I could probably have done with some more sleep but I am enjoying writing in this little room with a view. I like the glimpse of the harbour near the Anzac Bridge and the ‘Rear Window’  view of the lives in the apartments nearby. The shirtless man smoking on the balcony. The dinner party. I’ve made a note of the room number.  I may be back.

Marian (MJ) Edmunds

P.S Kate Forsyth was the stand out for inspiration. More on that and more soon #asa2020